Privacy not Prism legal challenge

UPDATE: We’re going to the European Court of Human Rights

If you’re able to donate to the fundraising to help us in the final stages of this case we would be enormously grateful.

Please support the case if you can. We need £1,200 for travel costs


That’s right,we’ve got a full hearing at the European Court of Human Rights!

This is huge news as very few cases are ever heard by the Court. The vast majority of cases (even successful ones) are decided on the basis of written submissions only. In view of the importance of the issues in this case, it seems that the court has exceptionally decided to hold a hearing. It just goes to show that privacy remains a critical issue, not just for everyday citizens but in the courts as well.

After much back and forth over the past 4 years with the UK Government about the case, the court have told us that they want to hear from us and other privacy groups who have launched similar cases against the intrusive UK surveillance regime known as RIPA.

On the 7th November, Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group and English Pen along with 10 other NGOs from the UK, the US and Germany will have the chance to put to the court our concerns.

We are extremely grateful for the generosity of all those who have already donated – we couldn’t have got this far without you.

We are still fundraising for our final costs. Every penny will help us and our legal team who have worked tirelessly on behalf of all UK citizens, against the intrusive surveillance regime of the UK Government.

UPDATE: the case moves ahead!

The European Court has completed its preliminary examination of the case and has communicated it to the British government, asking it to justify how GCHQ's practices and the current system of oversight comply with the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention. The court has also given the case a rare priority designation.

However, in April 2014 the court delayed the case from going forward awaiting the judgment in another case being heard by the UK's Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The Investigatory Powers Tribunal has now published two judgments in that case. We have recently updated the court and asked it to lift the adjournment, so we expect the case to proceed soon. 

Thanks to the generosity of over 1400 people, we met and exceeded our first fundraising target in just 48 hours and raised £27,279. This covered the costs of the first stage of our legal challenge against unlawful government surveillance of our digital communications, and also helped maintain and develop this site.

The speed with which people sent in donations shows how strongly the public cares about mass surveillance. We hope politicians will note the depth of feeling on this issue.

We're now fundraising for a new target of £40,000 towards the legal costs of the next stage of the case. 

Thank you again for your support.


Recent disclosures that the government routinely taps, stores and sifts through our internet data have alarmed experts and internet users alike. It is alleged that the government has used the US's PRISM programme to access data on British citizens stored by US internet corporations. Through its own TEMPORA programme, the government is alleged to tap into the sub-ocean cables that carry the UK's and the EU's internet activities around the world and stores and sifts through that data, even if it is an email or a call between two British or EU citizens. Furthermore, the UK has granted the US National Security Agency unlimited access to this data.

These practices appear to have been authorized by government ministers on a routine 'rolling' basis, in secret. Existing oversight mechanisms (the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Intelligence Services Commissioner, the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal) have failed. The legislation that is supposed to balance our rights with the interests of the security services is toothless.

That is why Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English PEN and Constanze Kurz have taken the unusual step of instructing a legal team to pursue legal action on our behalf and on behalf of all internet users in the UK and EU. First, our lawyers wrote to the government demanding that it accepts that its authorization practices have been unlawful and that it consult on a new, transparent set of laws for the future. The government refused and invited us to submit a case to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. But the Tribunal is a creature of the very statutory regime which has failed and would not offer an effective remedy. It is unable to rule that the legislative regime breaches our privacy rights, it is conducted largely in secret and there is no right of appeal. The European Court of Human Rights has previously decided that this tribunal does not provide an effective remedy for privacy victims. So we will take our case directly to the European Court of Human Rights. It will decide whether the government's surveillance activities and the existing legislation sufficiently protect the privacy of UK and EU internet users.

Learn more about the case (includes full documents)

Big Brother Watch, Open Rights Group, English PEN and German internet campaigner Constanze Kurz are challenging the UK's activities before the European Court of Human Rights. Our lawyers will have to fight every step of the way. We have raised our legal fees but you can still help fund our campaign costs.